All posts by Earl Taylor

America Saved by the Constitution

The First Time

For the Founding Fathers assembling in Philadelphia May 25, 1787, it was a frightening experience. The entire American experiment was falling to pieces!
The unity that existed during the Revolutionary War had disappeared
* There was a deep depression with runaway inflation and rioting in some places
* The states were quarreling over boundaries in the west and fishing rights in the east
* The states actually treated one another as foreign countries, charging customs on imports and exports
* Spain was threatening to seize territory along the Mississippi River
* England would not remove her troops from the northern border of the United States
* Such hostility had developed between the states that New England was threatening to secede from the Union!
* It was obvious the Articles of Confederation were a failure and the central government was completely incapable of dealing with all these crises.

The whole civilized world was watching to see if the men assembled in Philadelphia could save the dis-United States. To build organization, peace, and unity from such chaos by sitting down and reasoning out a plan of government – such a thing had never occurred in the history of the world. Order had always been restored through military takeover and a dictator would then be in control.

The Constitutional Convention Nearly Ends in Ruin

After several frustrating attempts to get the states to send delegates, twelve states did send their delegates to Philadelphia in May of 1787. However, the convention quickly deteriorated into near chaos. Everyone seemed to have a plan and no one was willing to listen to others in a rational way. The bickering and arguing continued until July 16th when some finally went home. It looked like another lost effort. It was during this dark period that Washington wrote: “I almost despair of seeing a favorable issue to the proceedings of the Convention, and do therefore repent having had any agency in the business.” Even the great General was discouraged. Observers said he looked as grim as when he was at Valley Forge.

Benjamin Franklin had tried to get the delegates to have prayer every day in the convention, but there were just not enough spiritual giants to take his suggestion seriously enough and make it work.

Something Miraculous Happened at the End of the Convention

As the new system began to take form, many of the Founders realized they had performed this labor beyond their own natural strength. Something had happened near the end of the convention which turned chaos into unity. They saw elements of divine inspiration which led them to call it a “miracle”.

Madison wrote to Jefferson that it was “impossible to consider the degree of concord which ultimately prevailed as less than a miracle.”

Charles Pinckney declared: “When the great work was done and published, I was… struck with amazement. Nothing less than that superintending hand of Providence, that so miraculously carried us through the war…could have brought it about so complete, upon the whole.”

Alexander Hamilton said: “For my part, I sincerely esteem it a system which, without the finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests.”

George Washington, the man who more than once despaired whether the convention would survive, finally saw the delegates close ranks and reach an intelligent consensus. He wrote later: “I can never trace the …causes which led to these events without…admiring the goodness of Providence. To the superintending Power alone is our retraction from the brink of ruin to be attributed. A spirit of accommodation was happily infused into the leading characters of the continent, and the minds of men were gradually prepared…for the reception of a good government.”

Benjamin Franklin said of the Constitution: “I have so much faith in the general government of the world by Providence that I can hardly conceive a transaction of such momentous importance to the welfare of millions now existing, and to exist in the posterity of a great nation, should be suffered to pass without being in some degree influenced, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent, and beneficent Ruler in whom all inferior spirits live and move and have their being.”

When they finally put the new charter into operation, George Washington was able to write after only two years:

“The United States enjoy a scene of prosperity and tranquility under the new government that could hardly have been hoped for.”1

The next day he wrote to David Humphreys:

“Tranquility reigns among the people with that disposition towards the general government which is likely to preserve it…. Our public credit stands on that [high] ground which three years ago it would have been considered as a species of madness to have foretold.”2

Not only did it change the United States, but within a few years it aroused the admiration of the whole world.

The Second Time

It was only about 50 years after the writing of the Constitution that a young twenty-six year-old Abraham Lincoln, then a member of the Illinois General Assembly, raised a warning voice about a trend he observed by those who would sidetrack America’s great experiment of freedom.

Gratitude to the Founders for the Gift of Liberty

In a speech to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, entitled, The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions, Lincoln declared:

“We find ourselves in the peaceful possession, of the fairest portion of the earth, as regards extent of territory, fertility of soil, and salubrity of climate. We find ourselves under the government of a system of political institutions, conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty, than any of which the history of former times tells us. We, when mounting the stage of existence, found ourselves the legal inheritors of these fundamental blessings. We toiled not in the acquirement or establishment of them—they are a legacy bequeathed us, by a once hardy, brave, and patriotic, but now lamented and departed race of ancestors. Theirs was the task (and nobly they performed it) to possess themselves, and through themselves, us, of this goodly land; and to uprear upon its hills and its valleys, a political edifice of liberty and equal rights; ’tis ours only, to transmit these, the former, unprofaned by the foot of an invader; the latter, undecayed by the lapse of time, and untorn by usurpation—to the latest generation that fate shall permit the world to know. This task of gratitude to our fathers, justice to ourselves, duty to posterity, and love for our species in general, all imperatively require us faithfully to perform.”

From where should we expect the Approach of Danger?

In our comfortable circumstances, he asked if we should ever again be in danger of losing our freedom:

“At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a Trial of a thousand years.

“At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

Lincoln then observes, “…there is, even now, something of ill-omen amongst us. I mean the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country….”

Freedom may slip away while citizens aren’t watchful

“I know the American People are much attached to their Government; — I know they would suffer much for its sake; — I know they would endure evils long and patiently, before they would ever think of exchanging it for another. Yet, notwithstanding all this, if the laws be continually despised and disregarded, if their rights to be secure in their persons and property, are held by no better tenure than the caprice of a mob, the alienation of their affections from the Government is the natural consequence; and to that, sooner or later, it must come.”

Let the Constitution become the Political Religion of the Nation

Young Abraham Lincoln then gives the answer which reflects his life’s work until his tragic death:

“The question recurs ‘how shall we fortify against it? The answer is simple. Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well-wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others. As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; –let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the character of his own, and his children’s liberty. Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap –let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; –let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; –let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.”

Fortunately, the Constitution provided Abraham Lincoln with the principles needed to later preserve the union from total destruction.

Will the Constitution Save America a Third Time?

Freedom loving Americans agree our country is in another crisis. The Constitution seems to be on the brink of ruin. Media sources have recently identified NCCS as the organization which has distributed more copies of the Constitution than any other group. We are now approaching 16 million distributed over the last few years! Of course, it will take more than merely handing out copies to turn the tide of destruction, but that is the first step. It is amazing that many people who receive a copy will read it, even out of curiosity, some for the first time in their lives!

We ask you to be looking for our announcement next month when we will launch a program to distribute 100 million copies of the Constitution.

We look forward to having your assistance in, again, preserving America.

Sincerely,

Earl Taylor, Jr.

Questions and Answers about Elections

For over 200 years since our nation’s founding, elections of public officials have occurred every two years and in some cases more often than that. Many Americans do not realize that elections are far different than envisioned by the Founders, both in the way we conduct them and in the kind of people we see on the ballots. Like most other things we do today, changes have taken place so gradually that we hardly notice, and unless we study the Founders’ ideas, we find ourselves saying, “Isn’t this the way we have always done it?”

Once again, as we have said so many times before, the problems and frustrations we feel today have occurred mostly because we have departed from the Founders’ counsel and wisdom. In this, as in many other issues of the day, we repeatedly remind Americans that the Founders had answers to nearly every problem we have in America today—if we would only listen.

Let’s listen to the Founders’ wisdom concerning some important election questions of the day:

Question: What kind of people should we be electing to public office?

Answer: In early America it was customary in some state legislatures to have powerful spokesmen of the day come before the representatives of the people at one of their early sessions and remind them of the importance of the lawmaking process. An eloquent example of this kind of dissertation is found in a speech by patriot Samuel Langdon before the Massachusetts legislature in 1788. He declared:

“On the people, therefore, of these United States, it depends whether wise men, or fools, good or bad men, shall govern…. Therefore, I will now lift up my voice and cry aloud to the people….

“From year to year be careful in the choice of your representatives and the higher powers [offices] of government. Fix your eyes upon men of good understanding and known honesty; men of knowledge, improved by experience; men who fear God and hate covetousness; who love truth and righteousness, and sincerely wish for the public welfare…. Let not men openly irreligious and immoral become your legislators…. If the legislative body are corrupt, you will soon have bad men for counselors, corrupt judges, unqualified justices, and officers in every department who will dishonor their stations…. Never give countenance to turbulent men, who wish to distinguish themselves and rise to power by forming combinations and exciting insurrections against government…. I call upon you also to support schools in your towns…. It is a debt you owe to your children.” (See The Making of America, page 10)

Question: How can one distinguish between a true patriot and one who pretends to be patriotic in order to get elected?

Answer: Samuel Adams, the father of the American Revolution, gave the key to knowing who was a real patriot when he said:

“But neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt. He therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man.”

He then went on to say that public officials should not be chosen if they are lacking in experience, training, proven virtue, and demonstrated wisdom. He said the task of the electorate is to choose those whose “fidelity has been tried in the nicest and tenderest manner, and has been ever firm and unshaken.”

A favorite scripture of the day was Proverbs 29:2, which says: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.” (See The Five Thousand Year Leap, page 59-60)

Question: Did the Founders anticipate the rise of political parties?

Answer: Contrary to most history textbooks, the answer is yes. They called them factions. James Madison said they arise naturally among men because of the propensity of people who think alike to join together. He said:

“By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest….

“The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good.” (Federalist Papers No. 10)

Question: How did the Founders feel the influence of political parties would be controlled so as not to have such an influence over the whole nation?

Answer: The Founders felt that a large and extended republic would provide enough variety of interests that one party or faction arising in one part would naturally be resisted by other factions in other parts of the nation. This of course was dependent on keeping the Constitutional limitations on the federal government. Here is the way Madison explained it:

“The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source. A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State.” (Federalist Papers No. 10)

Question: Then why do political parties seem to have such a huge influence in our day over our political decisions?

Answer: Because states and the federal government have given political parties political power into the election process, contrary to the Constitution and the advice of the Founders. State and federal legislatures have passed laws which define the structure of a party, laws which give parties control over candidates on the ballot, laws which give parties the power to appoint presidential electors, laws which provide public money to finance campaigns and political party primary elections, and laws which dictate party activities in national elections. All of these laws have given political parties legal power and have brought into the political process all the passions and tumult that the Founders said naturally come with parties or factions.

In his famous Commentaries on the Constitution, in 1833, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story explained that the Founders specifically designed the electoral system of electing a president so as to avoid the tumult and intrigue of both direct election by the people or national party politics, including national nominating conventions. He described why the Founders developed a system of electors from each state to choose the president:

“Assuming that the choice [or election] ought not to be confined to [or be done by] the national legislature, there remained various other modes, by which it might be effected; by the people directly; by the state legislatures; or by electors, chosen by the one, or the other. The latter mode was deemed most advisable; and the reasoning, by which it was supported, was to the following effect. (The Founders’ Constitution, Vol. 3, page 557)

Question: In choosing a president, why did the Founders feel a small group of electors in each state would be much preferred over political parties in deciding who would best serve?

Answer: Justice Story continues:

“The immediate election should be made by men, the most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favourable to deliberation, and to judicious combination of all the inducements, which ought to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow citizens from the general mass for this special object, would be most likely to possess the information, and discernment, and independence, essential for the proper discharge of the duty. It is also highly important to afford as little opportunity, as possible, to tumult and disorder. These evils are not unlikely [meaning they are very likely] to occur in the election of a chief magistrate directly by the people, considering the strong excitements and interests, which such an occasion may naturally be presumed to produce. The choice of a number of persons, to form an intermediate body of electors, would be far less apt to convulse the community with any extraordinary or violent movements, than the choice of one, who was himself the final object of the public wishes.” (ibid.)

Question: What advantage did the Founders see in requiring a system of a small group of independent electors to meet in their respective state capitals to elect the president as opposed to legally enabling political parties with campaigns, primary elections, multi-million dollar media events, and huge national nominating conventions?

Answer: Justice Story continues:

“And as the electors chosen in each state are to assemble, and vote in the state, in which they are chosen, this detached and divided situation would expose them much less to heats and ferments, which might be communicated from them to the people, than if they were all convened at one time in one place. The same circumstances would naturally lessen the dangers of cabal, intrigue, and corruption, especially, if congress should, as they undoubtedly would, prescribe the same day for the choice of the electors, and for giving their votes throughout the United States. The scheme, indeed, presents every reasonable guard against these fatal evils to republican governments. The appointment of the president is not made to depend upon any pre-existing body of men [such as political parties], who might be tampered with beforehand to prostitute their votes; but is delegated to persons chosen by the immediate act of the people, for that sole and temporary purpose.” (ibid.)

Question: We find ourselves in a predicament today where some very powerful forces, whether they are political parties or other factions, seemed to have made our decisions for us concerning the electable choices we have on our ballots. Sometimes, neither of the electable choices is very appealing. Did the Founders have any advice for this kind of problem?

Answer: The Founders were very practical men who recognized a reality of our human society that no candidate is perfect. Recognizing that, it then becomes a matter of choosing the best candidate that can possibly be elected. Thomas Jefferson seemed to sense the reality that we are often presented with situations that we are uncomfortable with, when he observed:

“It is a melancholy law of human societies to be compelled sometimes to choose a great evil in order to ward off a greater.” (The Real Thomas Jefferson, page 423)

Jefferson would also be the first to say that no matter who comes to power, the people and the states must hold his feet to the fire so as not to allow him to violate the Constitution. He said it forcefully this way:

“In questions of power, then, let no more be said of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” (The Five Thousand Year Leap, page 165)

If we do not feel comfortable with the choices we presently have, then we must make sure we choose Congressmen and others who will bind down runaway politicians with the check and balance provisions of the Constitution.

As we view the upcoming political party conventions, with all their machinations, let us remember that, as we have said so many times, the Founders really did have a better way to do it.

Sincerely,
Earl Taylor, Jr.

What is the Proper Role of Government?

Recently, a mother and her daughter were being interviewed for possible enrollment in our charter high school. In the course of the conversation the mother asked, “When is breakfast served at your school?” When it was explained that we do not participate in such federal programs at our school, the mother turned to the daughter and exclaimed, “Well, I guess you’ll just have to eat breakfast at home before you come to school!”

At least two things are immediately apparent from this incident. First, these government programs are now so much a part of our society that it is considered normal to participate in them. Second, there seems to be less and less understanding that someone still has to pay for the “free lunch (breakfast).” With nearly half of the American population now on some sort of government dole, and the political parties getting more practice on getting them out to vote, it seems that the prediction of Alexander Tyler, made two hundred years ago, is being fulfilled yet again:

“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until [a majority of] the voters discover they can vote themselves largesse [gifts] from the public treasury. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy [taxing and spending], always followed by a dictatorship. The average life of the world’s greatest civilizations has been two hundred years.”

A Modern Example of People, not Government, taking care of People

Ten years ago, the world witnessed an incredibly devastating event as a huge tsunami hit the shores of Southern Asia killing over 100,000 people. Pictures were flashed before us daily and hearts were touched. Who did not feel the need to extend a helping hand to these people? Who did not ask the question, “What more can I do?” And so, millions of people responded (not the government) and not only opened their hearts but also their checkbooks, proving that people can take care of the needs of people. The International Red Cross issued the following bulletin:

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies today announced that the $1.2 billion pledged worldwide in the 30 days since the tsunami was sufficient to meet the costs of the entire Red Cross tsunami relief program.

Following the Federation’s lead, the American Red Cross believes that current contributions and pledges, when received from the American public, will be sufficient to carry out its immediate and longer-term plans to assist survivors of the deadly tsunami that roared ashore December 26, 2004.

To date, approximately $1.2 billion has been given or pledged by donors to Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies around the world. Due to the generous financial contributions from public, foundation and corporate supporters, which now amounts to $236.2 million, the American Red Cross will no longer engage in new fundraising activities for tsunami relief after January 26th.

It is a well-known fact that, by far, the largest portion of the relief funds came from the American people themselves and not their government. There was no forcible extractions for the needy! Among the lessons to be learned from this tragedy, and one which did not seem to be getting much attention, is that Americans are the most giving, not only because they are generous people, but because they have more to give. And they have more to give because they have a system of private property ownership and protection, which, while suffering serious erosion itself, provides for more comforts of life and more surplus to be shared with those in need, than any other system on the face of this planet. It is a system that America’s Founders knew would provide unprecedented wealth and allow this nation to be a beacon, a light, and an example to the rest of the world so they could see what we have and perhaps seek it for themselves.

For several months thereafter there were who insisted that America do more still, and that the government should force the American people to be “more generous” with their property (money) through even higher taxes. America’s Founders called this kind of thinking, which existed in their day in European countries, fallacious. They will not accept the fact that government has no legitimate authority to do this.

Government of the People Can Only Do What the People Can Rightfully Delegate

The Founders recognized that the people cannot delegate to their government the power to do anything except that which they have the lawful right to do themselves.

For example, every person is entitled to protection of his life and property. Therefore it is perfectly legitimate to delegate to the government the task of setting up a police force to protect the lives and property of all the people.

But suppose a kind-hearted man saw that one of his neighbors had two cars while another neighbor had none. What would happen if, in a spirit of benevolence, the kind man went over and took one of the cars from his prosperous neighbor and generously gave it to the neighbor in need? Obviously, he would be arrested for car theft. No matter how kind his intentions, he is guilty of flagrantly violating the natural rights of his prosperous neighbor, who is entitled to be protected in his property.

Of course, the two-car neighbor could donate a car to his poor neighbor, if he liked, but that is his decision and not the prerogative of the kind-hearted neighbor who wants to play Robin Hood.

How Governments Sometimes Commit “Legal” Crimes

But suppose the kind-hearted man decided to ask the mayor and city council to force the man with two cars to give one to his pedestrian neighbor. Does that make it any more legitimate? Obviously, this makes it even worse because if the mayor and city council do it in the name of the law, the man who has lost his car has not only lost the rights to his property, but (since it is the “law”) he has lost all right to appeal for help in protecting his property.

The American Founders recognized that the moment the government is authorized to start leveling the material possessions of the rich in order to have an “equal distribution of goods,” the government thereafter has the power to deprive any of the people of their “equal” rights to enjoy their lives, liberties, and property.

The power given to the government to take from the rich automatically cancels out the principle of “guaranteed equal rights.” It opens the floodgate for the government to meddle with everybody’s rights, particularly property rights.

All Improving Civilizations Have Protected Property Rights

One of the world’s foremost economists, Dr. Ludwig von Mises, pointed out that the preservation of private property has tremendous social implications as well as legal ramifications. He wrote:

“If history could prove and teach us anything, it would be the private ownership of the means of production as a necessary requisite of civilization and material well-being. All civilizations have up to now been based on private property. Only nations committed to the principle of private property have risen above penury and produced science, art, and literature. There is no experience to show that any other social system could provide mankind with any of the achievements of civilization.” (Ludwig von Mises, Socialism, Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut, 1951, p. 583.)

Confiscatory and Graduated Taxes Constitute a Violation of Property Rights

Some people fail to understand the broad scope of property rights. It is more than protection of your home or land. Property is everything you have and own, including your wages, earnings, and accumulated savings. As Abraham Lincoln said:

“Property is the fruit of labor. Property is desirable, is a positive good in the world. That some should be rich shows that others may become rich and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise. Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another, but let him work diligently to build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence…. I take it that it is best for all to leave each man free to acquire property as fast as he can. Some will get wealthy. I don’t believe in a law to prevent a man from getting rich; it would do more harm than good.” (Quoted in The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty, May 1955, p. 7.)

When government uses its power of taxation to take more from you than it needs for its legitimate, constitutionally authorized powers, it is violating your property rights. When it uses your tax dollars in ways you have not authorized them to be used, whether at home or abroad, it is a violation of your property rights.

Limited Government Proves to be the Best Way to Care for the Needy!

Where does this philosophy leave the poor, the needy, the suffering, and the unfortunate? Is there no room in such thinking for those who have less? Quite the contrary, the Founders said. The protection of property rights provides the very vehicle by which much more help can be extended than otherwise would be by government taxation. It provides a way to best comply with the commandment of God to care for the poor and the needy. And it will eventually generate much more surplus so that citizens can better fulfill the command of God to care for the needy. As Benjamin Franklin explained:

“To relieve the misfortunes of our fellow creatures is concurring with the Deity; it is godlike; but, if we provide encouragement for laziness, and supports for folly [through government welfare programs], may we not be found fighting against the order of God and Nature.… Whenever we attempt to amend the scheme of Providence, and to interfere with the government of the world, we had need be very circumspect, lest we do more harm than good.” (Smyth, Writings of Benjamin Franklin, 3:135.)

Caring for the Poor Without Violating Property Rights

But, of course, the nagging question still remains. If it corrupts a society for the government to take care of the poor by violating the principle of property rights, who will take care of the poor? The answer of those who built America seems to be: “Anybody but the federal government.”

Americans have never tolerated the suffering and starvation which have plagued the rest of the world, but until the present generation, help was given almost exclusively by the private sector or on the community or state level. President Grover Cleveland vetoed legislation in his day designed to spend federal taxes for private welfare problems. He wrote:

“I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadfastly resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that though the people support the Government the Government should not support the people.

“The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow-citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.” (“Why the President Said No,” in Essays on Liberty, 12 vols., The Foundation for Economic Education, Inc., Irvington-on-Hudson, New York, 1952-65, 3:255; emphasis added.)

In our day, it is quite evident to every honest observer that government programs designed to provide equal things have only increased the number of people on poverty and, sadly, created an entitlement class almost too large to control.

Once again, the Founders had the right answer to our modern problems.

Sincerely,

Earl Taylor, Jr.

America’s Dependence on and Accountability to the Creator

With regard to the principles of all sound religion which we discussed in the last principle of liberty, the Founders were in harmony with the thinking of John Locke as expressed in his famous  Essay Concerning Human Understanding. In it Locke pointed out that it defies the most elementary aspects of reason and experience to presuppose that everything in existence developed as a result of an accident or chance of nature. The mind, for example, will not accept the proposition that the forces of nature, churning about among themselves, would ever produce a watch, or even a  lead pencil, let alone the marvelous intricacies of the human eye, the ear, or even the simplest of the organisms found in nature. All these are the product of intelligent design and high-precision engineering. Locke felt that a person who calls himself an “atheist” is merely confessing that he has never dealt with the issue of the Creator’s existence. Therefore, to Locke an atheist would be to that extent “irrational,” and out of touch with reality; in fact, out of touch with the most important and fundamental reality.

Those of us who teach the Founders’ formula for freedom in America are sometimes asked the question: “If, as you claim, the Founders really believed in God, why doesn’t the Constitution spell out that belief clearly or at least mention God?”  The answer to that question would surprise some Americans.

Indeed it was the very fact that the Founders were so religious and held religious freedom to be, next to life itself, the most precious of all of man’s unalienable rights that they wanted to keep the ever-tempting power of the federal government far away from this most valuable right. They had both experience and knowledge from studies of what happens to a people in a nation when its government meddles in the subject of religion and they wanted no part of it. To them religion was very personal and any regulation of it had to be very close to the people so that any abuse could be easily and efficiently dealt with and corrected in order to ensure the maximum freedom to believe according to the dictates of one’s conscience.

They Excluded the Federal Government out of Belief not Unbelief

With regard to the subject of religion in the powers of Congress there is not one iota of delegated authority mentioned. To emphasize the Founders position on this they soon adopted the First Amendment prohibition on Congress with respect to anything dealing with religion. Once again, it was not out of unbelief in God that this prohibition took place but, quite to the contrary, out of their overwhelming desire to protect their precious freedom to believe in God as they chose. Justice Joseph Story explained it this way:

“In some of the states, Episcopalians constituted the predominant sect; in others, Presbyterians; in others, Congregationalists; in others, Quakers; and in others again, there was a close numerical rivalry among contending sects. It was impossible that there should not arise perpetual strife and perpetual jealousy on the subject of ecclesiastical ascendancy, if the national government were left free to create a religious establishment. The only security was in extirpating the power. But this alone would have been an imperfect security, if it had not been followed up by a declaration of the right of the free exercise of religion, and a prohibition (as we have seen) of all religious tests. Thus, the whole power over the subject of religion is left exclusively to the state governments, to be acted upon according to their own sense of justice, and the state constitutions.” (Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, 3rd ed,, 2 vols. Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1858, 2:666-667, art. 1879)

In the Kentucky Resolutions, Thomas Jefferson also made it clear that not only Congress but also the federal judicial system was likewise prohibited from intermeddling with religious matters within the states. He wrote:

“Special provision has been made by one of the amendments to the Constitution, which expressly declares that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …’, thereby guarding in the same sentence, and under the same words, the freedom of religion, of speech, and of the press, insomuch that whatever violates either throws down the sanctuary which covers the others; and that libels, falsehood, and defamation, equally with heresy and false religions, are withheld from the cognizance of federal tribunals.” (Mortimer J. Adler et al., eds., The Annals of America, 18 vols., Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., Chicago, 1968, 4:63)

The Founders Actively Participated in Local and State Government

But the Founders did not just leave it to the states to protect the freedom of religion, they took an active part in local governments. Of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and of those participating in the Ratification Conventions in the states, nearly all had been strong participants in local and state government: Governors, state legislators, court magistrates, etc. They knew the value of keeping government close to the people, and the more sensitive and delicate a given unalienable right was, the closer to the people it needed to be for protection from abuse.  So it was natural to carefully enumerate the few powers given to the national government and to provide powerful checks on the use of them. Hence, as James Madison explained:

“The powers delegated… to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the state governments are numerous and indefinite.”

Because the Founders believed that state and local government can more precisely reflect the feelings and heart-felt beliefs of the people in those states, the drafters of the state constitutions felt uninhibited to express themselves. It is from these documents that we can get a more accurate idea of the Founders dependence on, and accountability to, the Creator.

Universal Recognition of Almighty God in State Constitutions

Nearly all of the fifty states recognize God in the Preambles or the Declaration of Rights of their state constitutions in one or more of the following phrases:

  • “invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God”
  • “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights”
  • “grateful to God and to those who founded our nation and pioneered this great land”
  • “grateful to Almighty God for our liberties”
  • “grateful to Almighty God for the privilege of choosing our own form of government; for our civil and religious liberty”
  • “with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe”“acknowledging with gratitude, the good providence of God, in having permitted them to enjoy a free government”
  • “Through Divine goodness, all men have by nature the rights of worshiping and serving their Creator according to the dictates of their consciences”
  • “being grateful to Almighty God for our constitutional liberty”
  • “relying upon the protection and guidance of Almighty God”
  • “grateful for Divine Guidance”
  • “grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberty which He has permitted us to enjoy and seeking His blessing upon our endeavors”
  • “grateful to ALMIGHTY GOD for the free exercise of the right to choose our own form of government”
  • “grateful to the Supreme Being for the blessings hitherto enjoyed, and feeling our dependence on Him for a continuation of those blessings”
  • “acknowledging with grateful hearts the goodness of the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe in affording us an opportunity, so favorable to the design; and, imploring God’s aid and direction in its accomplishment”
  • “acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the goodness of the great Legislator of the universe, in affording us, in the course of His providence, an opportunity, deliberately and peaceably, without fraud, violence or surprise, of entering into an original, explicit, and solemn compact with each other; and of forming a new constitution of civil government, for ourselves and posterity; and devoutly imploring His direction in so interesting a design”
  • “grateful to Almighty God, and invoking His blessing on our work”
  • “with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, and grateful for His goodness”
  • “grateful to God for the quiet beauty of our state, the grandeur of our mountains, the vastness of our rolling plains”
  • “grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing upon our endeavors to secure and transmit the same unimpaired to succeeding generations”
  • “grateful to Almighty God, the Sovereign Ruler of Nations, for the preservation of the American Union and the existence of our civil, political and religious liberties, and acknowledging our dependence upon Him for the continuance of those blessings to us and our posterity”
  • “grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, and humbly invoking His guidance”
  • “grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing upon our endeavors to secure and to transmit the same, unimpaired, to succeeding generations”
  • “Since through Divine Providence we enjoy the blessings of civil, political and religious liberty….”

Oath Taking – A Recognition of Man’s Duty to God

Nearly every state requires public officials to take an oath upon entering their term of service. To the Founders, oath taking was very special. They knew one does not take an oath to people. The oath is taken to God, hence, in nearly every state constitution the words “so help me God” are required at the end of the oath.

Furthermore, some state constitutions deny elective office to anyone who does not believe in God, recognizing the situation that if a person who doesn’t belief in the existence of God is required to take an oath to God, it would be meaningless and of no binding effect upon the man’s conscience. Some states constitutions also forbid a non-believer from giving testimony in court, realizing that his oath to God “to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” would have no binding effect. In other words his testimony could not be relied upon for the truth. The following words are examples found in some state constitutions. Note that, to the Founders, these words were not in conflict with the prohibition of a religious test found in Article VI of the U. S. Constitution which was meant only to prohibit a sectarian or denominational test.

It is also interesting to note that many states were adopting constitutions at a time when modern anti-Creator theories were being perpetrated from the likes of Karl Marx and Charles Darwin. It seems the authors of state constitutions wanted it clearly known that they, with America’s Founders, knew the source of their freedoms and liberties and that all public officials must have a belief in a Supreme Being to whom they feel accountable. Hear their words in their state constitutions:

  • “No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any Court.”
  • “The manner of administering an oath or affirmation shall be such as is most consistent with the conscience of the deponent, and shall be esteemed by the General Assembly the most solemn appeal to God.”
  • “That no religious test ought ever to be required as a qualification for any office of profit or trust in this State, other than a declaration of belief in the existence of God”
  • “The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.”
  • “No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future state of rewards and punishments shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or place of trust or profit under this Commonwealth.”

“In God We Trust”

Even though the phrase “In God We Trust” was later officially adopted by Congress as the nation’s motto, original histories of the United States are filled with accounts affirming the Founders’ belief that all things were created by God and that upon Him are all mankind equally dependent and to Him they are equally responsible.
Sincerely,
Earl Taylor, Jr.

"The Religion of All Mankind"

Having established that freedom and liberty cannot be maintained without the people being moral and virtuous, and that morality and virtue, in order to be stable and consistent, must have roots in religion (the subject of our newsletter in March), the next logical question must be, then, “What religion must we embrace in order to have this freedom and morality?” As with so many questions on the minds of many people, the Founders had an answer to this one too. Americans of the twenty-first century often fail to realize the supreme importance which the Founding Fathers originally attached to the role of religion in the structure of the unique civilization which they hoped would emerge as the first free people in modern times. Many Americans also fail to realize that the Founders felt the role of religion would be as important in our own day as it was in theirs.

The General Principles in All Religions

Is it possible to find universal, basic principles that run through all religions and beliefs, which, if taught in public schools for example, would not offend another’s religious beliefs? Once again, we turn to the Founders.

Samuel Adams said that this group of basic beliefs which constitute “the religion of America is the religion of all mankind.”  In other words, these fundamental beliefs belong to all world faiths and could therefore be taught without being offensive to any sect or denomination as indicated in the Virginia bill for establishing elementary schools.

John Adams called these basic beliefs the “general principles” on which the American civilization had been founded.
Thomas Jefferson called these basic beliefs the principles “in which God has united us all.”

From these statements it is obvious how significantly the Founders looked upon the fundamental precepts of religion and morality as the cornerstones of a free government. This gives additional importance to the warning of Washington when he said in his Farewell Address:

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable  supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens…. Let it simply be asked, where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education … reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

Identifying the Basic Beliefs of All Religions

Several of the Founders have left us with descriptions of their basic religious beliefs, and Benjamin Franklin summarized those which he felt were the “fundamental points in all sound religion.” This is the way he said it in a letter to Ezra Stiles, president of Yale University:

“Here is my creed: I believe in one God, the Creator of the universe. That he governs it by his providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is in doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be  the fundamental points in all sound religion.”

The five points of fundamental religious belief expressed or implied in Franklin’s statement are these:

  1. There exists a Creator who made all things, and mankind should recognize and worship Him.
  2. The Creator has revealed a moral code of behavior for happy living which distinguishes right from wrong.
  3. The Creator holds mankind responsible for the way they treat each other.
  4. All mankind live beyond this life.
  5. In the next life mankind are judged for their conduct in this one.

All five of these tenets run through practically all of the Founders’ writings. These are the beliefs which the Founders sometimes referred to as the “religion of America,” and they felt these Fundamentals were essential in providing “good government and the happiness of mankind.”

The Religion of all mankind should be taught in the schools

In 1787, the very year the Constitution was written and approved by Congress, that same Congress passed the famous Northwest Ordinance. In it they emphasized the essential need to teach religion and morality in the schools. Here is the way they said it:

“Article 3: Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

Notice that formal education was to include among its responsibilities the teaching of three important subjects:

  1. Religion, which might be defined as a “fundamental system of beliefs concerning man’s origin and relationship to the cosmic universe as well as his relationship with his fellowmen.”
  2. Morality, which may be described as “a standard of behavior distinguishing right from wrong.”
  3. Knowledge, which is “an intellectual awareness and understanding of established facts relating to any field of human experience or inquiry (i.e., history, geography, science, etc.).”

Leaving the teaching of the specific tenets which separate the different denominations to the home and church, wouldn’t a people who know that freedom and liberty depend on the rising generation learning virtue and morality want their children to be taught these general principles in the schools, where teachers have the attention of their children for a longer period of time than most any other teacher, including at church? For example:

  • Wouldn’t a moral people want school teachers to reinforce to their children that life is not an accident of nature—that there is a Creator who established an order which can be observed in all creation and that there is a purpose for life?
  • Wouldn’t a moral people want school teachers to reinforce to their children that there is a basic code of conduct given from the beginning of mankind to help us to know right from wrong?
  • Wouldn’t a moral people want school teachers to reinforce to their children that the greatest good we can do is to be kind and helpful to our fellow men?
  • Wouldn’t a moral people want school teachers to reinforce to their children that there is a next life and that in that life we will be held accountable for what we have done in this life, even if no one in this life has seen everything we do?

The Impact of Religion in America

A French jurist by the name of Alexis de Tocqueville powerfully brought this point home.  After his visit to United States in 1831, he returned home and wrote a book on the American culture and Constitutional system of Government.  In it he had this to say concerning religion in America.

“On my arrival in the United States the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there, the more I perceived the great political consequences resulting from this new state of things.

“Religion in America takes no direct part in the government of society, but it must be regarded as the first of their political institutions….  I do not know whether all Americans have a sincere faith in their religion – for who can search the human heart? – but I am certain that they hold it to be indispensable to the maintenance of republic institutions.  This opinion is not peculiar to a class of citizens or to a party, but it belongs to the whole nation and to every rank of society.

“The philosophers of the eighteenth century explained in a very simple manner the gradual decay of religious faith.  Religious zeal, said they, must necessarily fail the more generally liberty is established and knowledge diffused.  Unfortunately, the facts by no means accord with their theory.  There are certain populations in Europe whose unbelief is only equaled by their ignorance and debasement; while in America, one of the freest and most enlightened nations in the world, the people fulfill with fervor all the outward duties of religion.”

“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there; in her fertile fields and boundless prairies, and it was not there; in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there.  Not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.  America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.  (The 5000 Year Leap, p. 80, 84)

Leave the subject of religion to the states and local governments

The Founders gave no authority to the federal government to involve itself in education and religion. Their warning was to leave these most sensitive areas to the states and local jurisdictions where the teachings in the school can reflect the will and desires of parents and local authorities. As a result there is absolutely no Constitutional authority for the federal government to pass any law or for any federal court to take any jurisdiction in matters relating to education and religion within the states. All that has been done in our day by the national government is without any authority from the people.

In fact it has been clearly shown from the time that the federal courts have prevented the teaching of the principles of religion of all mankind in the public schools, crime rates among our youth have risen, rates of births to unwed mothers have risen, divorce rates have risen, rates of sexually-transmitted diseases have risen, and student SAT scores have dramatically fallen. It is interesting that public officials have become so alarmed at these statistics that programs have been developed to give “Character lessons” to youth in school. These programs have largely been failures because they do not include religion. It seems nothing short of the original formula of teaching principles of “the religion of all mankind” will solve our growing problems in America.

Sincerely,

Earl Taylor, Jr.

Choosing Virtuous and Moral Leaders

Several years ago I was to drive from Phoenix to Tucson to attend a political meeting. Just before I left, a young man phoned and asked if he could ride with me to the meeting. As we became acquainted during the drive, I found he was a student at the university and majoring in political science. I asked him what he wanted to do with such a degree when he finished school and he replied: I want to have a career in politics.

My mind immediately reflected on the words of Samuel Adams who said:

“But neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt. He therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man.”

Sam Adams went on to say that public officials should not be chosen if they are lacking in experience, training, proven virtue, and demonstrated wisdom. He said the task of the electorate is to choose those whose “fidelity has been tried in the nicest and tenderest manner, and has been ever firm and unshaken.”

While this young man had the best of intentions, I am sure, and we did have an enjoyable visit the rest of the way, I couldn’t help asking myself, Where is this young man’s experience? His training? His proven virtue? His demonstrated wisdom? How has his fidelity to principle been proven to be firm and unshaken? According to Adams, these qualities should be developed before seeking public office.

Building a Natural Aristocracy

Jefferson said in America we reject the artificial aristocracy of Europe, wherein political office is gained through inheritance, wealth, or birth. He said that under American liberty and equality, a natural aristocracy would develop based on virtue and talents. This natural process will come about without force, almost silently, like cream rising to the top of a gallon of raw milk. As people seek to develop themselves and their life’s work, they will become wise. They will perhaps learn what it is like to live under unjust laws or high taxes. They will learn how to deal justly with people and how to persuade them to do good. They will come to appreciate what freedom does for people. In the process, others will come to trust them more and more. People will seek counsel at their hands. They will become pillars of strength in their homes, their businesses, and their communities.

After explaining the wonders of this natural aristocracy, Jefferson said we should so construct a government, which will then provide a system whereby these leaders in private endeavors can be skimmed off the top and entrusted with political leadership of the people for a time. Said he:

“May we not even say, that that form of government is the best, which provides the most effectually for a pure selection of these natural aristoi into the offices of government?”

John Adams had the same feelings about those who served in political office. They were repulsed by those who wanted these offices for their own gain (or should we say for a career). John Adams observed:

“How is it possible that any man should ever think of making it (political office) subservient to his own little passions and mean private interests? Ye baseborn sons of fallen Adam, is the end of politics a fortune, a family, a gilded coach, a train of horses, and a troop of livery servants, balls at Court, splendid dinners and suppers?”

A Divine Science

I have always appreciated the definition which John Adams attached to politics. He said, “Politics are the divine science.” Today, politics is thought of as merely an art—the art of negotiating. Whoever can win the debate, be the most persuasive, and get the most votes is the best politician. The Founders did not agree it should be that way in America. They said politics is the sacred duty to preserve the God-given rights of the people. To them, there was something godly about public service. They agreed with the Roman statesman Cicero who said:

“For there is really no other occupation in which human virtue approaches more closely the august function of the gods than that of founding new States or preserving those already in existence.”

Since the Creator endowed each individual with liberty and agency, would He not be very concerned that a society be so structured and led, so that these liberties may be preserved? In other words, such leadership may be termed a godly function!

A Sacred Calling or Mission

Think of what a society would be like if its leadership offices would be thought of as a service or a mission. A person who has proven experience or talents, perhaps retired so that he does not need a big salary, would be asked to serve his country for a time.

In the early history of the United States, community offices were looked upon as stations of honor granted to the recipients by an admiring community, state, or nation. These offices were therefore often filled by those who performed their services with little or no compensation. Even when an annual salary of $25,000 was provided in the Constitution for President Washington, he determined to somehow manage without it. Some might think that this was no sacrifice because he had a large plantation. However, the Mount Vernon plantation had been virtually ruined during the Revolutionary War, and he had not yet built it back into efficient production when he was called to be President. Washington declined his salary on principle. He did the same thing while serving as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces during the Revolutionary War. Not all could afford to do this, but it was considered the proper procedure when circumstances permitted it.

Political Office-A Unique Opportunity

The Founders considered political office to be quite different than any other undertaking. In politics, there is a combination of human passions found in no other place. Benjamin Franklin described it this way:

“Sir, there are two passions which have a powerful influence in the affairs of men. These are ambition and avarice; the love of power and the love of money. Separately, each of these has great force in prompting men to action; but when united in view of the same object, they have in many minds the most violent effects. Place before the eyes of such men a post of honor, that shall at the same time be a place of profit, and they will move heaven and earth to obtain it.”

The uniqueness of politics is that it gives to office holders the power over other peoples’ lives and over other peoples’ money. No other occupation or business provides this kind of control. And that is why political power is so corrupting. Few men or women can handle it very long without gradually beginning to exercise unrighteous dominion over others. It is a fact of human nature.

What about Salaries of Public Officials?

The Founders felt that as soon as a salary is attached to a public office, it immediately becomes a job which people want to keep—even for a career. It is no longer considered a real service. Franklin explained to a friend the difference between public service in America and in Europe:

“In America, salaries, where indispensable, are extremely low; but much of public business is done gratis. The honor of serving the public ably and faithfully is deemed sufficient. Public spirit really exists there, and has great effects. In England it is universally deemed a nonentity, and whoever pretends to it is laughed at as a fool, or suspected as a knave.”

In the Constitutional Convention, Franklin gave a lengthy discourse on this subject. He warned that high salaries for government offices are the best way to attract scoundrels and drive from the halls of public office those men who possess true merit and virtue. He asked:

“And of what kind are the men that will strive for this profitable preeminence, through all the bustle of cabal, the heat of contention, the infinite mutual abuse of parties, tearing to pieces the best of characters? It will not be the wise and moderate, the lovers of peace and good order, the men fittest for the trust. It will be the bold and the violent, the men of strong passions and indefatigable activity in their selfish pursuits. These will thrust themselves into your government, and be your rulers.”

His next statement has turned out to be prophetic:

“Sir, though we may set out in the beginning with moderate salaries, we shall find that such will not be of long continuance. Reasons will never be wanting for proposed augmentations; and there will always be a party for giving more to the rulers, that the rulers may be able in return to give more to them.”

But Don’t We Have to Pay Sufficient Salaries to Attract Good People?

Franklin had an answer for those who worried that not paying high salaries would deprive our country of its best leaders. He used the example of George Washington but he did not use his name so as to not further embarrass him who was presiding at the Convention:

“To bring the matter nearer home, have we not seen the greatest and most important of our offices, that of general of our armies, executed for eight years together, without the smallest salary, by a patriot whom I will not now offend by any other praise; and this, through fatigues and distresses, in common with the other brave men, his military friends and companions, and the constant anxieties peculiar to his station? And shall we doubt finding three or four men in all the United States, with public spirit enough to bear sitting in peaceful council, for perhaps an equal term, merely to preside over our civil concerns, and see that our laws are duly executed? Sir, I have a better opinion of our country. I think we shall never be without a sufficient number of wise and good men to undertake, and execute well and faithfully, the office in question.”

A preview of the current salaries paid to state legislators of the fifty states confirms the truthfulness of Franklin’s prediction. If one groups the ten states with the highest paid state legislators, he will find that, on the average, they have not only the highest salaries and benefits, but also the highest number of staff members, the longest legislative sessions, the highest number of regulations on commerce, and the highest state taxes. By contrast, the group of ten states whose legislative salaries average the lowest, also have the fewest benefits, the shortest legislative sessions, the fewest staff members, the lowest amount of regulations on commerce, and the lowest state taxes.

Once again the Founders have the answer

Long before the Constitutional Convention, where Franklin had made his plea for modest salaries, Pennsylvanians had put the following provision in their State Constitution. It included a solution to the problem of many people wanting the same office:

“As every freeman, to preserve his independence, (if he has not a sufficient estate) ought to have some profession, calling, trade, or farm, whereby he may honestly subsist, there can be no necessity for, nor use in, establishing offices of profit; the usual effects of which are dependence and servility, unbecoming freemen, in the possessors and expectants; faction, contention, corruption, and disorder among the people. Wherefore, whenever an office, through increase of fees or otherwise, becomes so profitable, as to occasion many to apply for it, the profits ought to be lessened by the legislature.”

The Formula for Producing Leaders of Character and Virtue

A modern American cannot read the writings of men such as Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, or Washington without feeling a certain sense of pride that the United States produced and had available leaders of this supreme quality to launch the first “noble experiment” for freedom in modern times.

However, one important question remains: “How are such qualities of superior character and virtue developed in human beings?”

The answer will be found in the writings and beliefs of the Founders themselves. These beliefs were based on careful study. They had also been carefully taught. In their respective churches, families, schools, or elsewhere, they had been allowed to acquire a comprehensive system of strong, basic beliefs. These beliefs are remarkable in and of themselves, but the fact that they all seem to have shared them in common is even more remarkable.

We will examine some of those beliefs next month.

Only a Virtuous People are Capable of Freedom

Modern Americans have long since forgotten the heated and sometimes violent debates which took place in the thirteen colonies between 1775 and 1776 over the issue of morality. For many thousands of Americans the big question of independence hung precariously on the single, slender thread of whether or not the people were sufficiently “virtuous and moral” to govern themselves. Self-government was generally referred to as “republicanism,” and it was universally acknowledged that a corrupt and selfish people could never make the principles of republicanism operate successfully. As Franklin wrote:

Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.

What does it mean to be a virtuous people?

Public virtue is a very special quality of human maturity in character and service closely akin to the Golden Rule. It is agreeing to forego some personal advantage for the betterment of one’s neighbor and society. As a modern historian epitomized it:

“In a Republic, however, each man must somehow be persuaded to submerge his personal wants into the greater good of the whole. This willingness of the individual to sacrifice his private interest for the good of the community — such patriotism or love of country — the eighteenth century termed public virtue…. The eighteenth century mind was thoroughly convinced that a popularly based government ‘cannot be supported without virtue’.”

When the colonists passed the non-importation acts, it meant that some businessmen could lose their businesses because the very products they were selling could only be obtained from the British. However, they felt the sacrifice was necessary for the eventual good of the entire nation.  That is public virtue.

Can virtue be legislated?

The public virtue necessary for freedom cannot be legislated. It must come freely from the hearts of people who have a conviction that each individual is created equal to all others and that he has the same unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It must come  as a result of people wanting to fulfill the commandments to love God and to love their fellow men and to not be arbitrary in their treatment of others.

Some do-gooders in our day think that laws can be passed to force people to be kind to others or not to discriminate against people based on some distinguishing feature. This kind of force only invites more and more laws, more legal entanglements, and more hard feelings between individuals, groups, and nations. The purveyors of this thinking give no place for the influence of morality and religion which the Founders felt was the only true basis for lasting virtue. Its basis is free will, not force.

Is there enough virtue among the people to be free?

The people had an instinctive thirst for independence, but there remained a haunting fear that they might not be “good enough” to make it work. Some felt the people were ready, others felt they were not ready. Some of the doubts gradually diminished as their patriotic indignation was aroused by the harsh and sometimes brutal policies of the British crown.

The real revolution was in the hearts of the people toward virtue

It is instructive to study the years immediately prior to the beginnings of the Revolutionary War. Historian Gordon Wood in his book, The Creation of the American Republic, explains:

In the eyes of the Whigs, the two or three years before the Declaration of Independence always appears to be the great period of the Revolution, the time of greatest denial and cohesion, when men ceased to extort and abuse one another, when families and communities seemed peculiarly united, when the courts were wonderfully free of that constant bickering over land and credit that had dominated their colonial life.

These voluntary acts of public virtue accelerated the movement toward independence. Many Americans became so impressed with the improvement in the quality of life as a result of the reform movement that they were afraid they might lose it if they did not hurriedly separate from the corrupting influence of British manners.

Young James Madison gloried in the atmosphere of national purpose, saying that “a spirit of liberty and patriotism animates all degrees and denominations of men.”

The Founders’ counsel to us concerning virtue and morality

It is only in this historical context that the modern American can appreciate the profound degree of anxiety which the Founders expressed concerning the quality of virtue and morality in their descendants. They knew that without these qualities, the Constitution they had written and the republican system of government which it provided could not be maintained. As James Madison said:

“Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks, no form of government, can render us secure. To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea. If there be sufficient virtue and intelligence in the community, it will be exercised in the selection of these men; so that we do not depend upon their virtue, or put confidence in our rulers, but in the people who are to choose them.”

Thomas Jefferson counseled, “Virtue is not hereditary.” Virtue has to be earned and it has to be learned. Neither is virtue a permanent quality in human nature. It has to be cultivated continually and exercised from hour to hour and from day to day. The Founders looked to the home, the school, and the churches to fuel the fires of virtue from generation to generation.

After serving eight years as our first president, George Washington sensed the tendency of the people in a free republic to begin to forget the bedrock of virtue and morality so necessary to the preservation of the republic the Founders gave us. Thus, in his Farewell Address, he declared:

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable  supports.”

Is not Washington telling us that without religion and morality, which are the seedbed of virtue, that our free republic would crumble? He then warns us about those who claim to be patriots but reject and even fight against the foundations of morality and religion:

“In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens….”

The insightful Washington then suggests that without a firm belief in the Creator and our duty to Him, there would be nothing to bind the consciences of men and our oaths would mean nothing:

“Let it simply be asked, where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice?”

He then warns us of those people who would claim they can be moral and virtuous but need no religion:

“And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.”

Most Americans have heard someone say, “I can be a moral person; I need no religion.” When such persons are asked, “What is your morality?” they respond with, “Well, it is whatever I feel is right.” This is clearly what is called today moral relativism. It has no solid basis. Washington knew that religion is necessary in a society to give standards to morality, and hence to give firmness and consistency to laws of the land.

But Washington is not through. He then seems to foresee the time when the very learned, with all manner of degrees behind their names, will be wise in their own eyes and therefore reject the need for religion. He says:

“Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education … reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

A powerful warning from a seasoned Founder!

The Founders’ advice on how to transmit virtue and morality to the next generation

Benjamin Franklin stressed the same point that Washington did and added how precious good teachers are in instilling wisdom and virtue into the next generation. He seemed to say that there is no greater calling in society than the calling of a teacher of virtue. Notice how Franklin described strong character to be the end goal of education:

“I think with you, that nothing is of more importance for the public weal, than to form and train up youth in wisdom and virtue. Wise and good men are in my opinion, the strength of the state; more so than riches or arms….

“I think also, that general virtue is more probably to be expected and obtained from the education of youth, than from the exhortations of adult persons; bad habits and vices of the mind being, like diseases of the body, more easily prevented [in youth] than cured [in adults].

Franklin then gives his opinion that a person who develops the skill to touch the hearts of young people to help them develop a virtuous character has been blessed with a special gift and can consider himself called from heaven to teach:

“I think, moreover, that talents for the education of youth are the gift of God; and that he on whom they are bestowed, whenever a way is opened for the use of them, is as strongly called as if he heard a voice from heaven….”

The Law of Nature and of Nature’s God

Do you know how many new laws you’re expected to obey in 2015?

Whatever the number, when we combine all lawmaking activities at the federal, state, and local levels, we can see that every U.S. citizen is bound by literally hundreds of new government mandates each year. As business owners and others can attest, it’s becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to comply with these constantly changing legal requirements-or even to keep track of them all!

To Be Just, the Law Must Be Limited

Sadly, this is the very situation our Founding Fathers warned us against. In 1788 James Madison wrote: “It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they… undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?”

Since law is force, it should be restricted to the one purpose for which individuals may legitimately use force–to protect our natural rights. As Thomas Jefferson put it, the law should “restrain men from injuring one another” but “leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits.”

Therefore, whenever a new bill comes before a legislative body, each member ought to ask himself.. “Do I have the right to use force against my neighbor to achieve this goal? Would I be willing to forcibly take his property, lock him in jail, or (in some cases) put him to death for failing to obey this law?” If a legislator isn’t certain it would be just to do so, he should vote against the bill.

Natural Law: The Basis of Proper Government

America’s founders knew that the only reliable basis on which to found a government was on a foundation that never changes. They called it “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.”

What is Natural Law?

First of all, Cicero defines Natural Law as “true law.” Then he says:

“True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting; it summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrongdoing by its prohibitions…. It is a sin to try to alter this law, nor is it allowable to repeal any part of it, and it is impossible to abolish entirely. We cannot be freed from its obligations by senate or people, and we need not look outside ourselves for an expounder or interpreter of it. And there will not be different laws at Rome and Athens, or different laws now and in the future, but one eternal and unchangeable law will be valid for all nations and all times, and there will be one master and ruler, that is God, over us all, for he is the author of this law, its promulgator, and its enforcing judge. Whoever is disobedient is fleeing from himself and denying his human nature, and by reason of this very fact he will suffer the worst punishment.”

 It can also be defined as “the rules of moral conduct implanted by nature in the human mind, forming the proper basis for and being superior to all written laws; the will of God revealed to man through his conscience.”

Natural law was central to American thought even before the Revolution. For example, here’s what Massachusetts patriot James Otis wrote in 1764 to oppose an unjust revenue act passed by the British Parliament:  “The supreme power in a state is jus dicere [to declare the law only: jus dare [to give the law, strictly speaking, belongs alone to God…. There must be in every instance a higher authority, [namely,] God. Should an act of Parliament be against any of His natural laws, which are immutably true, their declaration would be contrary to eternal truth, equity, and justice, and consequently void.”

When the U.S. Constitution was completed, its framers looked upon it as an expression of this higher law. According to Madison, it was a product of “the transcendent law of nature.” Alexander Hamilton called it “a fundamental law” and concluded that “no legislative act… contrary to the Constitution can be valid.”

Who Taught the Founders About This?

Where did the Founders learn about natural law? In their historical and political studies, it was a familiar thread that ran through the Greek and Roman philosophers (such as Aristotle, Demosthenes, Seneca, and especially Cicero); the Anglo-Saxon tradition of common law; and many of the European and English political philosophers (such as Sir Edward Coke, John Locke, Baron Charles de Montesquieu, and Sir William Blackstone).

This passage from Blackstone is representative of what they encountered in their reading:

“Man, considered as a creature, must necessarily be subject to the laws of his Creator…. These are the eternal, immutable laws of good and evil, to which the Creator Himself in all His dispensations conforms; and which He has enabled human reason to discover, so far as they are necessary for the conduct of human actions. Such, among others, are these principles: that we should live honestly, should hurt nobody, and should render to everyone his due…. This law of nature… is binding over all the globe, in all countries and at all times; no human laws are of any validity if contrary to this.”

The Bible and Natural Law

But the most ancient and most influential source from which the Founders drew their understanding of natural law was the Holy Bible, which they had studied from their childhood.  “I will give thee… a law,” the Lord declared to Moses, and He inscribed it on stone tablets to govern the house of Israel. When they vowed to obey this law, God accepted their covenant and promised that if they remained faithful He would make them “high above all nations … an holy people unto the Lord.”

The Israelites were forbidden to alter the words received by Moses, for “the law of the Lord is perfect.” “Great peace have they which love [the] law,” their leaders taught.

“He that keepeth the law, happy is he.” The lord also revealed to the prophet Jeremiah that in the last days He would “make a new covenant with the house of Israel,… I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

In the New Testament, Jesus proclaimed that the two greatest commandments are to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart” and to “love thy neighbor as thyself,” and that “on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. ” The Apostle James spoke of Christ’s gospel as “the perfect law of liberty.”

Biblical teachings had a powerful impact on America’s founders. In fact, between the years 1760 and 1805, the Bible was the most frequently cited source in American political writings. John Adams, who regarded politics as “the divine science,” once said: “Suppose a nation… should take the Bible for their only law book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited   What a paradise would this region be!”

America Was Built on Natural Law

As our forefathers sought to build “one nation under God,” they purposely established their legal codes on the foundation of natural law. They believed that societies should be governed, as Jefferson put it, by “the moral law to which man has been subjected by his Creator, and of which his feelings, or conscience as it is sometimes called, are the evidence with which his Creator has furnished him. The moral duties which exist between individual and individual in a state of nature accompany them into a state of society,… their Maker not having released them from those duties on their forming themselves into a nation.”

Throughout the first century of US. history, natural law was upheld as a key principle of government by the American people and their leader-not only by Presidents and the Congress, but also by the Supreme Court.

In the view of the Court, its members were to decide cases by exercising “that understanding which Providence has bestowed upon them.” Since the laws they adjudicated were based on “the preexisting and higher authority of the laws of nature,” they relied less on judicial precedent than on “eternal justice as it comes from intelligence and ….. . to guide the conscience of the Court.”

So What Happened in the Twentieth Century?

In the 1900s, however, the Court began to depart from the original American philosophy. By 1947, Justice Hugo Black (following the earlier reasoning of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes) was urging that “the ‘natural law’ formula … should be abandoned”; he even argued that it was “a violation of our Constitution!” The other branches of the federal government have also succumbed to this new line of thinking.

Today, the United States has all but severed its connection to “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.” We’ve sold our birthright for a “mess of pottage,” and we now find ourselves harvesting the fruits of that decision. In the recent words of Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Edith H. Jones, our country has plunged into a profound moral crisis “because we have lost the sense of a God who takes interest in what we do.” As a result, she says, we have come to tolerate violence, immorality, and the disintegration of our families-and “are only now beginning to reap the whirlwind consequences” of these evils.

We are reminded of this sober admonition from the Old Testament: “Hear the word of the Lord, ye children of Israel: for the Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land…. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, … seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.” (Hosea 4:1, 6)

We Must Return to the “Freedom and Unity” Formula

More than ever before, America needs moral, God-fearing statesmen who have the knowledge, integrity, and determination to lead us back to the inspired principles on which this nation was founded. Among the most important of these is natural law. Only by adhering to this law, which is the will of our Creator revealed through the scriptures and through the conscience of every person, can our society enjoy lasting peace, stability, and happiness.

In modern times, many people have accepted the notion that all “truth” is relative and thus every opinion is equally valid, even in life’s most crucial issues. Such a philosophy inevitably tends toward confusion, corruption, and social discord. But absolute, eternal truth-the very substance of natural law-provides a sure standard for consensus by which we can “form a more perfect union” without violating the free will of any citizen.

In fact, we may say that revealed truth is the very center of America’s original “freedom and unity ” formula. Thomas Jefferson pointed out that the divine truths implanted in us by heaven are “those principles … in which God has united us all.” Ironically, they not only unify us but also liberate us, as our Savior assured His disciples. “Ye shall know the truth,” He said, “and the truth shall make you free.”

Sincerely,

Earl Taylor, Jr.

The Value of Knowing Principles

The Value of Knowing Principles

It was not long after the resurrected Christ had given charge to his apostles and departed from them that new ideas began to creep into the churches. The apostle Paul expressed the fear that unless the saints stayed close to the original teachings, they would be lead away by the cunning craftiness of those who make it their purpose to deceive. He reminded them of the very reason Christ called apostles and prophets was to keep the teachings pure. He begged them to stay with those who helped found the Church and who knew the correct doctrines and principles that would eventually lead to real happiness. This is how he expressed it:

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets… That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
(Ephesians 4:11, 14)

So it is with correct principles learned in other aspects of our lives.

The Value of Correct Principles

How many times in our daily lives have we appreciated our second or third grade teacher who made us memorize the multiplication tables? These principles of mathematics have become so much a part of us that it would be ludicrous for someone to try to convince us that four times four is really thirteen. The only ones that they could really convince are ones who never really learned their multiplication tables or perhaps those who have never periodically reviewed them.

And isn’t it great that gravity is always constant or that reactions between chemicals are always dependable, or that electricity is always going to react the same way under similar conditions, or that the earth, the moon, and the sun are always so dependable in their orbits? These are constant scientific principles that never change! Our modern advanced technology is so dependent on all these things happening the way they were originally designed to function.

The Founders of America chart
“a new and more noble course.”

For the first time, the Founders of America, believing that there are correct principles of good government which will allow freedom, prosperity, and peace for all, and using many doctrines outlined in the Bible for human happiness, discovered the principles of liberty which created the first free people in modern times and which have created a nation that has become the marvel of the world. They gave a charge to their successors to maintain the Founders’ pure doctrines. James Madison admonished:

“Happily for America, happily we trust  for the whole human race, they pursued a new and more noble course. They accomplished a revolution which has no parallel in the annals of human society. They reared the fabrics of governments which have no model on the face of the globe. They formed the design of a great Confederacy, which it is incumbent on their successors to improve and perpetuate.”

They believed the principles they discovered and implemented were as unchangeable and permanent for the advancement and happiness of mankind as are principles of religion, math, astronomy, or any other science. They form the science of human happiness. John Adams even defined politics as the “divine science.”

It began with Jamestown and Plymouth

The English colonies of Jamestown and Plymouth brought with them the old European style government where the people were basically assigned duties within a communal style of living. They almost starved to death. Governor William Bradford of Plymouth decided rather than die out of existence, he would try a new system of free-enterprise, where everyone would be on his own and would enjoy the benefits of his own labor. He said of this experiment:

“This had very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so that much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been … The women now went willingly into the fields, and took their little ones with them to set corn, which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have  compelled  would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.”

This began of process of trial and error in which the Founders tried many ideas to see what form of government would promote freedom for the individual and still protect and preserve individual rights for all. After nearly 180 years, 1607 to 1787, they met in Philadelphia, first to draft a Declaration of Independence and then later to write a Constitution, to reduce to writing the principles of liberty they had discovered which would guarantee the most happiness to the people.

These new ideas produced nearly unbelievable progress. The Jamestown settlers were plowing fields, moving around on land and sea, and making their cloth basically the same way their ancient ancestors were doing it 5000 years ago. Suddenly, the new principles of liberty set the human spirit free and within 200 years mankind was walking on the moon! The progress of man could not be matched anywhere in the history of the world – it is truly the miracle of America.

Progress under principles of freedom
even surprised the Founders

The state of affairs after the Revolutionary War was teetering on disaster – and getting worse. When the Founding Fathers assembled in Philadelphia May 25, 1787, it was a  frightening  experience. The entire American experiment was falling to pieces!

The unity  which existed during the Revolutionary War had disappeared. There was a deep  depression  with runaway inflation and rioting in some places. The states were  quarreling  over boundaries in the west and fishing rights in the east. The states actually treated one another as  countries, charging customs on imports and exports. Spain was threatening to seize territory along the  Mississippi River. England would not remove her  troops from the northern border of the United States. Such  hostility had developed between the states that New England was threatening to secede from the Union! It was obvious the Articles of Confederation were a  failure and the central government was completely incapable of dealing with all these crises. The whole civilized world was watching to see if the men assembled in Philadelphia could save the dis-United States.

At times, George Washington himself wondered if they would survive as a nation. Even halfway through the Constitutional Convention of 1787, seeing the disagreements and frustrations of the delegates to come up with solutions, he wrote:

“I almost despair of seeing a favorable issue to the proceedings of the Convention, and do therefore repent having had any agency in the business.”

Then it happened. After Benjamin Franklin reminded the delegates of their dependence on Divine Providence, within several weeks the whole convention seemed to turn around. Compromises and consensus were made on important issues and at the end the delegates were incredibly united in their support of the new Constitution.

After the ratification, members of congress were elected and President Washington was sworn into office as President. He knew he faced an extremely difficult task.

But after only two years as president, George Washington was able to write:

“The United States enjoy a scene of prosperity and tranquility under the new government that could  hardly have been hoped for.”

The next day he wrote:

“Tranquility reigns among the people with that disposition towards the general government which is likely to preserve it…. Our public credit stands on that [high] ground which three years ago it would have been considered as a species of madness to have foretold.”

Not only did these newly discovered principles change the United States, but within a few years it aroused the admiration of the whole world.

Could this dream of Washington come true in our day?

I have the pleasure of teaching the required Government class to seniors in high school. We spend many classroom sessions becoming familiar with the 28 Principles of Liberty developed by the Founders. Using current issues, we learn how restoring these principles could indeed save America once again. I ask these young students to dream of working hard enough to once again enjoy a government based on these true principles. Then, three years from now we will meet again and recollect sitting in our high school classroom, three years previous, talking about the terrible shape we are in. But with all our energy we were able to convince enough Americans of the correctness of these principles and restore them in our government. Would not our reaction be the same as Washington’s? We could say, with Washington, “If anyone would have foretold that we could solve our problems in just three years using these marvelous principles of liberty, we would have thought him a fit candidate for the madhouse!” But it did happen and can happen again! That is what we must work toward.

As a concerned citizen, what can
I do to help make a difference?

First, become familiar with these principles yourself. Memorize them and then practice applying them. There are several good online sources to go to see what kind of bills are being introduced in Congress and in your state legislature or even ordinances being considered in you city or town council. Compare these proposed laws to correct principles of government and become conversant with explaining why the proposals are good or bad based on correct principles. There is nothing more satisfying than to know your thinking has solid basis of principle rather than mere emotion of the time.

Second, NCCS has produced several audio recordings that focus on various topics.  They are designed to reinforce the Principles of Freedom in a fun and engaging way.  Visit our Facebook page or our web site to listen to these audio segments.  You can also influence other by liking us on Facebook and sharing them through social media.  We would really like your input, so please let us know what you think.

Third, an important election is coming in 2016. As you may become acquainted with candidates for local, state, or federal offices, invite them to learn about these principles. Get NCCS’s publication on Constitutional Questions to Ask Candidates. It is a great way of quickly knowing what kind of a candidate they are and how they feel about restoring Constitutional government. Also, invite them to complete our study course online using our new Discussion Guide entitled, Proclaim Liberty. Using this guide, anyone can view our online videos at no cost and learn how the Founders first developed, and then implemented these principles into our founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Fourth, after you do the three steps above, encourage those around you to do the same. Soon you will become a powerful influence for good in restoring correct principles. You will feel the peace of not being “carried about with every wind of doctrine….”

Sincerely,

Earl Taylor, Jr.

An Assembly of Demigods

“An Assembly of Demigods”

Any honest student of the United States Constitution must stand in amazement at the incredible accomplishment that took place in Philadelphia 223 years ago. It was eleven years after declaring our independence from England and only four years after the Treaty of Paris that officially ended the War for Independence. America was in turmoil because, as Thomas Jefferson had predicted, if people or states do not know what to do with freedom, it can be worse than under tyranny. So the calling of a Constitutional Convention was itself an incredible happening, or as Jefferson called it, “an assembly of demigods.”

Delegates Miraculously Gather

Although previous attempts to get the states together had failed, it was fortunate indeed that each of the states sent some of its most outstanding leaders to the convention. Only Rhode Island failed to send any delegates. One of the surprising things connected with the convention was the fact that George Washington, who had pleaded for a convention so long, almost did not attend himself. His brother had just died, his mother and sister were seriously ill, and he was in such pain from rheumatism that he could scarcely sleep at night. Nevertheless, the general decided to go. James Madison and others pointed out that because of his position in the public mind as the most trusted leader in the nation, it would appear that he had lost confidence in the Congress and perhaps in republican principles if he did not attend. Although he had been carrying one arm in a sling because of rheumatic pain, he left Mount Vernon at sunrise on May 9 and arrived in Philadelphia the day before the delegates were to convene on May 14.

Altogether 73 delegates had been appointed by the states, but in the end only 55 actually participated. Many of the states had not provided for any travel or expense money, and this accounted for most of the absenteeism. In fact, many of those who did come, including James Madison, had to borrow money for living expenses before the convention was over.

Adams and Jefferson Tutor Delegates before the Convention

Two men who made some of the greatest contributions to the constitutional precepts of the day were unable to attend. One of them was John Adams, who was serving as the American minister to England. Nevertheless, he had written a treatise entitled A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States , and that document had been widely read by delegates to the Constitutional Convention.

The other intellectual leader was Thomas Jefferson. He was absent serving as the American minister to France. However, he had sent over a hundred carefully selected books to James Madison and George Wythe, the best reference works available. Madison made himself a walking encyclopedia on the history and political philosophy of governments of the past, and Jefferson corresponded with him on what he considered to be the essential elements of a good constitution.

A month before the Convention, Madison wrote a summary of the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation entitled The Vices of the Political System of the United States . He then outlined the kind of constitution which he thought would remedy the situation. No one came to the Convention better prepared for the task at hand than James Madison.

The Nation’s Best

In terms of experience and professional training, the 55 delegates represented a cross-section of the most capable men in the country.

  • Two were college presidents (William S. Johnson and Abraham Baldwin).
  • Three were or had been college professors (George Wythe, James Wilson, and William C. Houston).
  • Four had studied law in England.
  • Thirty-one were members of the legal profession, several of them being judges.
  • Nine had been born in foreign countries and knew the oppressions of Europe from firsthand experience.
  • Twenty-eight had served in Congress, and most of the rest had served in state legislatures.
  • Nineteen or more had served in the army, 17 as officers, and 4 on Washington’s staff.

Dr. Samuel Eliot Morison of Harvard writes:

“Practically every American who had useful ideas on political science was there except John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, on foreign missions, and John Jay, busy with the foreign relations of the Confederation. Jefferson contributed indirectly by shipping to Madison and Wythe from Paris sets of Polybius and other ancient publicists who discoursed on the theory of ‘mixed government’ on which the Constitution was based. The political literature of Greece and Rome was a positive and quickening influence on the Convention debates.”

  • A distinctive quality of this convention was the youthfulness of most of its participants. The average age was about 41.
  • Five (including Charles Pinckney) were under 30.
  • One (Alexander Hamilton) was 32. Three (James Madison, Gouverneur Morris, and Edmund Randolph) were within a year of being 35.
  • Three (Washington, John Dickinson, and George Wythe) were 55.
  • Only four members had passed 60, and Benjamin Franklin, at 81, was the oldest member by a gap of 15 years.

Major William Pierce Describes Characters at the Convention

The following are comments about some of the principal personalities at the Convention as observed by another of the delegates, Major William Pierce of Georgia. For those who believe the Founders represent a very special group of people, perhaps even raised up for the very purpose of founding America, here is just a little more evidence for that belief.

Dickinson, John , delegate from Delaware.

“Famed through all America, for his Farmers Letters ; he is a scholar, and said to be a man of very extensive information…. He is … a good writer and will be ever considered one of the most important characters in the United States.”

Franklin, Benjamin , delegate from Pennsylvania.

“Well known to be the greatest philosopher of the present age; all the operations of nature he seems to understand, the very heavens obey him, and the clouds yield up the lightning to be imprisoned in his rod…. He is … a most extraordinary man…. He is 82 years old, and possesses an activity of mind equal to a youth of 25 years of age.”

 

Hamilton, Alexander, delegate from New York.

“Colonel Hamilton is deservedly celebrated for his talents. He is a practitioner of the law, and reputed to be a finished scholar. To a clear and strong judgment he unites the ornaments of fancy, and whilst he is able, convincing, and engaging in his eloquence the heart and head sympathize in approving him…. Colonel Hamilton requires time to think; he inquires into every part of his subject with the searchings of philosophy, and when he comes forward he comes highly charged with interesting matter; there is no skimming over the surface of a subject, he must sink to the bottom to see what foundation it rests on.”

Madison, James, delegate from Virginia.

“A character who has long been in public life; and what is very remarkable, every person seems to acknowledge his greatness. He blends together the profound politician, with the scholar. In the management of every great question he evidently took the lead in the Convention, and though he cannot be called an orator, he is a most agreeable, eloquent, and convincing speaker. From a spirit of industry and application which he possesses in a most eminent degree, he always comes forward the best informed man of any point in debate. The affairs of the United States, he perhaps, has the most correct knowledge of any man in the Union. He has been twice a member of Congress, and was always thought one of the ablest members that ever sat in that council.”

Mason, George , delegate from Virginia.

“A gentleman of remarkable strong powers, and possesses a clear and copious understanding. He is able and convincing in debate, steady and firm in his principles, and undoubtedly one of the best politicians in America.”

Morris, Gouverneur , delegate from Pennsylvania.

“One of the geniuses in whom every species of talents combine to render him conspicuous and flourishing in public debate. He winds through all the mazes of rhetoric and throws around him such a glare, that he charms, captivates, and leads away the senses of all who hear him. With an infinite streak of fancy, he brings to view things, when he is engaged in deep argumentation, that render all the labor of reasoning easy and pleasing…. He has gone through a very extensive course of reading, and is acquainted with all the sciences. No man has more wit … than Mr. Morris. He was bred to the law, but I am told he disliked the profession and turned merchant.”

Morris, Robert , delegate from Pennsylvania.

“A merchant of great eminence and wealth; an able financier and a worthy patriot. He has an understanding equal to any public object, and possesses an energy of mind that few men can boast of. Although he is not learned, yet he is as great as those who are. I am told that when he speaks in the Assembly of Pennsylvania, that he bears down all before him.”

Pinckney, Charles , delegate from South Carolina.

“A young gentleman of the most promising talents. He is, although only 24 years of age [actually he was 30], in possession of a very great variety of knowledge. Government, law, history and philosophy are his favorite studies, but he is intimately acquainted with every species of polite learning, and has a spirit of application and industry beyond most men. He speaks with great neatness and perspicuity, and treats every subject as fully, without running into prolixity, as it requires. He has been a member of Congress, and served in that body with ability and eclat.”

Randolph, Edmund , delegate from Virginia.

“Is governor of Virginia, a young gentleman in whom unite all the accomplishments of the scholar and the statesman. He came forward with the postulata, or first principles, on which the Convention acted, and he supported them with a force of eloquence and reasoning that did him great honor.”

Rutledge, John , delegate from South Carolina.

“His reputation in the first Congress gave him a distinguished rank among the American worthies. He was bred to the law, and now acts as one of the chancellors of South Carolina. This gentleman is much famed in his own State as an orator…. He is undoubtedly a man of abilities, and a gentleman of distinction and fortune. Mr. Rutledge was once governor of South Carolina.”

Sherman, Roger , delegate from Connecticut.

“In his train of thinking there is something regular, deep, and comprehensive. He … deserves infinite praise. No man has a better heart or a clearer head…. He can furnish thoughts that are wise and useful. He is an able politician, and extremely artful in accomplishing any particular object; it is remarked that he seldom fails…. He sits on the bench in Connecticut and is very correct in the discharge of his judicial functions…. He has been several years a member of Congress and discharged the duties of his office with honor and credit to himself, an advantage to the State he represented.”

Washington, George , delegate from Virginia.

“Well known as the commander in chief of the late American Army. Having conducted these States to independence and peace, he now appears to assist in framing a government to make the people happy. Like Gustavus Vasa, he may be said to be the deliverer of his country; like Peter the Great, he appears as the politician and the statesman, and like Cincinnatus he returned to his farm perfectly contented with being only a plain citizen, after enjoying the highest honor of the Confederacy, and now only seeks for the approbation of his countrymen by being virtuous and useful. The General was conducted to the Chair as president of the Convention by the unanimous voice of its members.”

Wilson, James , delegate from Pennsylvania.

“Ranks among the foremost in legal and political knowledge…. He is well acquainted with man, and understands all the passions that influence him. Government seems to have been his peculiar study, all the political institutions of the world he knows in detail, and can trace the causes and effects of every revolution from the earliest stages of the Grecian commonwealth down to the present time. No man is more clear, copious, and comprehensive than Mr. Wilson, yet he is no great orator. He draws the attention, not by the charm of his eloquence, but by the force of his reasoning.”

Wythe, George , delegate from Virginia.

“One of the most learned legal characters of the present age…. He is remarked for his exemplary life and universally esteemed for his good principles. No man, it is said, understands the history of government better than Mr. Wythe — nor anyone who understands the fluctuating conditions to which all societies are liable better than he does…. He is a neat and pleasing speaker, and a most correct and able writer.”

It has often been wondered, with doubt, if such an assembly could ever be brought together again today.

This September will be the 223 rd anniversary of their writing of the Constitution. Hopefully, we will honor them by honoring the document they gave us.

Sincerely,

Earl Taylor, Jr.

Note: For a more complete discussion of the accomplishments and lives of these Founders, see W. Cleon Skousen, The Making of America, pages xv-xxix, and 138-153, available from NCCS.